Though I spoke in full sentences whilst still an infant (this fact having been verified by medical specialists) and could read tawdry grown-up novels like, “Valley of the Dolls”when most children are still learning their colors (okay, okay, so I’M A FREAK — tell me something I don’t know…), when it comes to anything mathematical, I am quite literally a CARD-CARRYING MORON. The old reptilian brain reacts only to words and beauty, not numbers and stodgy logic. Throughout school, this always put me at a very distinct disadvantage. My saviour? A brilliant, blonde stoner boy named Dewayne Link, about whom I waxed eloquent in this essay some 10 years ago and which is published here for the first time anywhere. I saw him at my 30 year high school reunion a couple of years ago — and tearfully and giddily presented him with my memories of him. As expected, he remains MAGNIFICENT. I never expected anything less. I adore you, Dewayne. Thank you for indulging an old hooker. xoxo
by Muffy Bolding
Had they paid attention to anything beyond the annual, rabid, “Beat Hoover!” football rally, anyone attending Bullard High School in Fresno, California in the early 80’s was provided a unique opportunity to observe what was known as,”The Barstow Bunch” — that group of kids who, between classes (and, more often than not, during classes, as well), hung around just outside the gates of the Senior parking lot on Barstow Avenue.
Collectively, we called them “stoners”. Singularly, they answered to names like Carlton, Sheila, Nikki, and Rowdy. I say “we”, because I was on the other side of the fence — with the Jennifers, Susies, Lindas, and Colettes.
At Bullard, The Gates of the Senior Parking Lot were like a divider between worlds — between the world of “Sweet 16” BMW’s, and the world of tinted, lowered El Caminos. Between letterman jackets, and Levi Jackets. Between letters of acceptance to Stanford University, and letters of summons from the Fresno County Juvenile Court docket.
And somewhere, between these two very different worlds, existed Dewayne Link.
Dewayne was a real live, Marlboro-smoking, Zeppelin-cranking, ‘roach’-saving, dyed-in-the-wool-lined-Levi-jacket-wearing, bong-carrying member of The Barstow Bunch. He was perhaps even what we might now call its “Alpha Male”. He was also one of the smartest people I have ever known — and I’m not just talking ‘street smart’, here, either. I’m talking Carl Sagan.
In a faded Pendleton.
With his wallet on a chain.
And a marijuana leaf stamped onto his wallet.
Dewayne was the sole reason I passed Geometry. I sometimes wonder where he is now, and what he’s made of his life — using that extraordinary brain, and the dazzling smile that fronted it.
In my mind, of course, he still looks much the same as he did in high school — long, blonde, feathered hair, and teeth so square and straight and perfect they looked like a line of fine, white Chiclets. I also think about if I ever saw him now, and had the chance to speak to him — what would I say?
I think I would tell him that this Izod and penny loafer-wearing sophomore with the contrived, perfectly coiffed, classic Bullard bob used to walk past him and his friends and wonder what it was like to be the beautiful honey-haired girl wearing the feathered roach-clip earrings standing blissfully behind him, her arms wrapped around his waist, and her hands thrust snugly into the pockets of his denim jacket.
I would ask him if he feels any personal satisfaction at all in knowing that he wore ragged jeans, thermal shirts, and a plaid Pendelton tied around his waist a full decade and a half before anyone had ever heard of Grunge, The Seattle Scene, or Kurt Cobain.
I would tell him that I used to secretly watch him, his bell bottoms, and his platform shoes confidently glide through the halls of Bullard High — a school notorious for its petty, intimidating, fiscal exclusivity — carrying himself with a dignity and self-assuredness so far beyond his years that it was an astonishing thing to witness.
I would tell him that that image of him — the grace of it, the beauty of it — has never left me.
I would ask him if he still wears bell bottoms.
I would tell him I am teaching my daughters that the best, most interesting, most loving, most intelligent, most successful guys aren’t necessarily the ones in the football jerseys named Mike, Mark, or Matt. I tell them that sometimes it’s the guy tinkering under the hood of a muscle car with a butt hangin’ out of the corner of his mouth, listening to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” over and over and over again until he can pinpoint for himself the mythical correlations between it, and L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz.”
I would tell him that I once overheard two teachers talking in hushed, almost awestruck tones about his scholastic brilliance and his amazing, seemingly effortless ability to move in both worlds — the world inside the classroom, and the world just outside the Senior parking lot.
I would tell him how sorry I am for never having told him that back then, when I should have. When it mattered.
I would tell him that all those rich kids from the “best” families were doing the exact same thing that he was doing on Saturday night — except they were denying it on Monday morning, and he was celebrating it.
I would say I am ashamed I ever thought that he dressed, acted, or hung out with the people he did, for any reason other than that is exactly who and what and where he chose to be.
I would tell him that I was only 16, and hadn’t yet opened my eyes to the truths all around me. That I still believed then that the prom and homecoming were the be-all and end-all of existence. That I had to at least maintain the facade of being a “good girl”, if only just for myself.
I would tell him, “thank you” for helping me pass Geometry, and that we were both right: you never do use that horseshit in real life.
I would tell him that what I once saw as merely the swagger of a happy-go-lucky stoner guy, I now recognize as the self-possessed gait of a man who so clearly belonged to what Thomas Jefferson called, “The Natural Aristocracy” — a wise and gracious nod to the kind of character, virtue, and awareness that no amount of money can buy you. The kind you are born with, not to.
And lastly, I would offer to him a single word — a single, perfect, all-encompassing word that it took me nearly 20 years to stumble across in my own life and studies, but the concept of which he has obviously understood and lived by all along.
I would say to him, “Namaste” — which, in the language of Tibet, means, “I salute the God within you.”
And, I do.